The Knitting and Crochet Guild UK: a fascinating visit

Knitting and Crochet Guild featured

Did you know there was a Knitting and Crochet Guild in the UK? No, I didn’t, I have to admit. I’ve had very little experience of guilds. I know there are many of them in the UK and that they are charitable societies that focus on one particular craft or on one aspect of a craft. Apart from that I’m clueless about what they are and what exactly they do.

Visit the Guild website

Last weekend, when I travelled to Slaithwaite near Huddersfield for the Stylecraft bloggers meetup I decided to go over on the Friday and stay with the other bloggers who come from further afield. Last time I didn’t do that, but felt I missed out having a chance to chat and get to know the others a bit better. Then I got a message that if I could be there by 1pm, Juliet Bernard of the blog A Kingfisher Morning, who also does some of the PR for Stylecraft and KnitPro) had arranged a visit to the Knitting and Crochet Guild, which turns out to be in Yorkshire.

It has its archive and HQ in Scholes, just outside Holmfirth and only a few miles from the Stylecraft mill so I jumped at the chance.

The Knitting and Crochet Guild UK archive

I didn’t really know what to expect but we arrived and were led into a large building that really was a warehouse area with loads of shelving loaded with boxes, all carefully labelled. This is the archive of the guild and its not like a museum in that nothing is on display. Its all catalogued and organised so that they volunteers who manage the archive can find things easily but you can’t see anything. We were all very intrigued by the labels and later admitted that we were itching to open some of the boxes and see what was inside.

As we walked through to go upstairs to the meeting room, where the volunteers had set up a demonstration of some of their key pieces, we passed an antique Singer sock knitting machine. Fascinating… that would have been fun to play with!

You can find out a lot more about the history of the guild (formed in 1978) on their website, which is very well done and incredibly detailed. A huge amount of work has gone into its production and the quality of it is amazing when you think that the Knitting and Crochet Guild is run entirely by volunteers and supported by donations and subscriptions. Anyone interested in knitting and crochet can become a member and its only £25 per year.

Visit the Guild website

Crochet and hand knitting have been very popular during the last 100 years but interest in these crafts has been a bit up and down. Currently we are riding on a high, with more people, men as well as women, realising the therapeutic value of playing with colour, yarn and making something. One of the main aims of the Knitting and Crochet Guild is to archive garments, patterns, tools and anything associated with knitting and crochet so that we can look back and see how these crafts have developed and changed over time.

Even if you are new to crochet or someone who wants to learn how to knit, the guild is a great resource and also very important in terms of telling us what has gone before. Its great to be forward looking and planning the next project, the next cast on, the next design, but its also important to feel grounded in an established tradition and to learn from those who have trod the same path.

Less blather more goodies

Anyway, as you can tell I’ve become a bit enthusiastic about the Knitting and Crochet Guild but do go and check out their website to read loads more. Now on to the goodies as I took lots of pictures of the items that we were shown and would love to share them with you.

Visit the Guild website

My photos are sometimes a bit of a strange angle. This is only due to the room being small and we were all crowded around the table so I was photographing most things upside down!

A Kaffe Fassett original from the 1980s!

Going from the most recent to the oldest item, the first thing we got to see was this stunning knitting jacket which is a Kaffe Fassett original and was actually made by the great man himself. I have admired Kaffe Fassett for years and his use of colour in all the media that he works with is amazing. It was a real thrill to see one of his knitted creations in real life…

Knitting and Crochet Guild UK Kaffe Fasset jacket

One of the objectives of the volunteers is to maintain the archive so that donated items are married up with a copy of the original pattern used to make the garment or ‘thing’. The colourwork is just mind blowing…and although this jacket was from the 1980s, it is so ageless and contemporary. If the design came out now and I could do colourwork knitting…. well that would be another rabbit hole to aim for with the jet skis!

Knitting and Crochet Guild UK Kaffe Fasset jacket close up

Crochet dresses from the 1970s

The next garment was crocheted and was a 1970s dress. It looked like it had never been worn and maybe that’s not so much of a surprise. It looks great on the model in the pattern but I’m not sure about the its ‘street cred’, even in the 1970s. But perhaps thats just me?

Knitting and Crochet Guild UK Pink dress pattern

Knitting and Crochet Guild UK Pink dress blog

A second dress then came out of another cardboard box, also complete with its original Sirdar pattern. This, again looks quite modern with the choice of colours but that may be because we are still quite into ‘retro’ at the moment. Not sure about wearing this one either though…

Knitting and crochet guild Spider dress blog 2

Knitting and crochet guild Spider dress blog

1950s/1960s and a beautiful Vogue wrap

This looks familiar doesn’t it! The pattern was originally in a Vogue Knitting magazine published in 1957 and beautifully photographed for the pattern (my photo doesn’t do it justice, sorry) but the colours in those perfect granny squares are just as fresh today as the day this wrap was finished. The fringing, which is woven into the edges took the same weight of yarn practically as the main body of the wrap, allowing it to drape around the shoulders perfectly.

Knitting and Crochet Guild Shawl Vogue knitting blog

Another granny square garment

These were very popular in the 1950s, 60s and 70s and this jacket is quite bright but the shape looks very wearable.

Knitting and Crochet Guild blue jacket-tile

1930s and 1940s; the inevitable crochet doilies…

It was really nice that the volunteers at the Knitting and Crochet Guild had tailored the things they were going to show us towards crochet as they knew many of us were more into crochet than knitting. Crochet in the 30s and 40s was rather doily focused and they did say that they have hundreds. This one is one of the most beautiful and the colours are surprising. Most doilies would have been white or ecru but this design is vibrant and perfect shades to represent pansies. Imagine making a set of these and then allowing the family to splash that casserole all over them!

Knitting and Crochet Guild Doily blog

… and a stunning knitted and beaded silk sweater

I think this was from the 1940s and its knitted using a silky drapey yarn, which no-one could 100% identify. It may have been a viscose silk blend. But the main feature of the pattern was the intricate beading, which covered the sleeves and featured on the back as well as the front.

Knitting and Crochet Guild Red top for montage-tile

A 1930s double bed throw

Knitting and Crochet Guild 1930s blanket blog

The skill involved in making all of the things we were shown was considerable but this bedspread just had a our jaws dropping. Its made out of a very thin cotton thread and it was HUGE. The stitches are so fine you can barely see them in the daffodils. How long must this have taken to make? Not only does it cover the double bed (which was probably a standard 4 foot 6 inch one back then) it drapes to the floor on both sides.

Knitting and Crochet Guild 1930s blanket detail blog

Freeform crochet as you’ve never seen it before

Knitting and Crochet Guild cave crochet blog

Yes, this is a completely crocheted interpretation of the inside of a cave with stalagmites and stalagtites! I wish I had more information about who made it but when the box was opened I think I was so busy looking at it I forgot to listen!

What a work of art!

Crochet and knitting tools from the past

The afternoon had gone by in a flash and we saw some other things that I couldn’t photograph because by phone battery died and I didn’t have my charger with me.

The volunteers doing the presentation did say they had some older items and showed us a crocheted baby dress made by Queen Mary in the early part of the 20th century. Some of the things like that are now deteriorating though and so its not really possible to show them.

The last section was all about knitting needles, yarn holders and crochet hooks and it was great to see some 1930s bakelite yarn ball holders that were designed to hold a ball of thin cotton and be worn on the wrist as a bracelet with a large dangle. Some of the hooks that crocheters used back then were so fine – in some cases you could not see there was a hook at all, you could just feel it by running your finger to the end.

Just before I was going to hit the publish button I heard from Sandra at Cherry Heart who had taken a lovely picture of the tools from the past and has very kindly sent it to me to use…

Knitting and Crochet Guild tools

An important Knitting and Crochet Guild project

As we talked about the visit later, Juliet was telling us that one of the donations that the Guild has had is a collection of knitting stitch swatches that were made years ago. When the knitters who volunteer looked at them they realise that some of these stitches are rare and have possibly never been documented so are in danger of being lost.

A project is now ongoing and the swatches have been reknitted in Yarn Stories fine merino (the originals are in pink bri-nylon!) and they are going to all go in a book. Hopefully, if the Guild can raise the money it needs to publish. Some of the rarer stitches have been sent off to individual knitting designers, including some very big names, who have been invited to use them in a new pattern to raise more money for the project too.

So, that was only the first few hours of the bloggers meet up and already we were feeling inspired and amazed about something that most of us didn’t even know had existed…

I’ll be back in a couple of days with a new blog about the Stylecraft meet up itself with news about new Stylecraft yarn. See you then or on YouTube for the next episode of the podcast xxx Kathryn

Visit the Guild website

10 thoughts on “The Knitting and Crochet Guild UK: a fascinating visit

  1. Pauline Sweetman says:

    Thanks for the lovely post. I crocheted a few of those dresses back in the 1960s and I can assure you that they were very popular and worn a lot, sometimes with a matching slip but often without. I also made the pansy doilies, in green and orange, and green and purple. They were dressing table sets rather than table mats. Good times 🙂

  2. Helen @bakingaitch says:

    I met ladies from the knitting and crochet guild at the knitting and stitching show last year. I hadn’t heard of it either and I work in Honley which is just down the road from holmfirth. I really should visit! And the stylecraft mill too!

  3. PixieMum says:

    I joined Knitting and Crochet Guild nearly two years ago, so pleased I did. There are monthly meetings in JL Kingston, also I went to the Convention in Sheffield last July. Like you I went early so was able to visit the archive, so delighted I did. I knew just one person when I went so was a bit apprehensive, but it was all so good I’m planning to go to this year’s convention in Birmingham.

    I blogged about it in my old Blogger platform, given problems with Blogger I have moved to WordPress at where I ramble about my life as a suburban baby boomer.

    Perhaps we will meet at the KCG convention or on Ravelry where I’m Knellergal.

  4. Juanita Chedzoy says:

    Hi, thank you for a really interesting post and the beautiful photos, I can only imagine how delicious your visit was! I discovered the Guild last year when I joined a Worldwide Knitting in Public day gathering in Bath. The meet up was organised by my local group which is held at the Fashion Museum in Bath. I joined and attend the group which holds monthly meetings which are free and we have talks and workshops for free by members or locals who are kind enough to share their skills. I love it so much and really look forward to each meeting. I have really been inspired to explore new yarny challenges thanks to the group. Tomorrow we are being shown how to design our own shawl. Can’t wait! Juanita x

    • Crafternoon Treats says:

      Thanks Julia – I wish some of the photos could have been better but in that room it was tricky xxx Sorry I didn’t get much chance to chat with you at the visit or the meeting – hope to see you soon x

  5. Misa says:

    I knew there was a Guild! They had a stand at Yarndale, and I’ve been a member of one of their knit and crochet groups since then. (Not a guild member yet but will join when I have the money.)

    • Crafternoon Treats says:

      Hi Misa – it just goes to show how unobservant I am – I went to Yarndale for both days and don’t even remember them… I am going to catch up with them again at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival though xxx

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